March 17, 2011

Happy Slave Patrick’s Day!

While we’re digging through our wardrobes trying to find that one item of green clothing that we own, and while the bars are stocking up to prepare for happy throngs tonight, and while certain folks commit harm on fragile ecosystems by dumping green dye into rivers, we might do well to ponder a part of the St. Patrick’s Day story that often gets forgotten — Patrick was a slave.

His birth name was Maewyn Succat and he was born to an aristocratic, Christian, Roman family living in Britain. Patricius was his Romanicized name. Patrick is the English rendition.

An interesting link:

… Patrick professed no interest in Christianity as a young boy, Freeman noted.

At 16, Patrick’s world turned.

He was kidnapped and sent overseas to tend sheep as a slave in the chilly, mountainous countryside of Ireland for seven years.

“It was just horrible for him,” Freeman said. “But he got a religious conversion while he was there and became a very deeply believing Christian.”

Hearing Voices

According to folklore, a voice came to Patrick in his dreams, telling him to escape. He found passage on a pirate ship back to Britain, where he was reunited with his family.

The voice then told him to go back to Ireland.

“He gets ordained as a priest from a bishop and goes back and spends the rest of his life trying to convert the Irish to Christianity,” Freeman said.

Patrick’s work in Ireland was tough—he was constantly beaten by thugs, harassed by the Irish royalty, and admonished by his British superiors.

After he died on March 17, 461, Patrick was largely forgotten.

But slowly, mythology grew up around Patrick. Centuries later he was honored as the patron saint of Ireland, Freeman noted.  ……

HERE is another source that provides possibly all there is to know about Patrick – including the background of heresy suppression that framed his legacy.

But… all of that said,

it may be a surprise to many to learn that

there are more slaves in the world today than at the peak of the U.S. slave trade back in the 1800s.

Whether it is called human trafficking, bonded labor , forced labor, or sex trafficking, it is present worldwide – big time – with some 27 million persons enslaved.

Perhaps instead of merely wearing green and downing a Guinness, we might consider dedicating a prayer, meditation, and/or yoga practice to the many enslaved people today, contacting our elected officials about this unacceptable situation, and making a donation to an advocacy group such as not for sale campaign or antislavery.org

Erin Go Bragh! (or as Braveheart put it, “Freedom!”)



Roger Wolsey is the author of the recently published book Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity.

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